When the ‘Unite With Tomorrowland’ electronic music festival franchise arrived in Dubai Festival City Arena, organisers Envie Events set up a live satellite link between Dubai, the original venue at Boom in Belgium and seven other Unite events scheduled to take place in Germany, Israel, Lebanon, Malta, South Korea, Spain and Taiwan.
Designed in the authentic Tomorrowland style, all stage sets were extravagant and to be virtually identical in presentation. In Dubai, a group effort between Backbone International, Envie Events and Protec all pulled together to develop the blueprint, in order to maintain continuity, and that the staging sustained the dynamic of the three-hour live broadcast.
The technical & staging production company, Protec supplied a full cutting-edge inventory of audio, video, lighting, set and rigging for the first ever event of its kind in Dubai. Backbone international, the technical team for Tomorrowland assisted Protec in their approach and design whilst Envie Events ensured the whole event came together. This ran from 2pm-3am, while the live stream from the main event in Belgium ran between 11pm-2am (Dubai time).
And while headliners, French producer and DJ Martin Solveig, Poland’s Tom Swoon and Belgium’s Robert Falcon topped a roster of world famous DJs in Dubai, the live satellite connection brought in EDM giants KSHMR, Armin van Buuren and Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike playing live from Belgium.
Under the supervision of Simon Travis, one of Protec’s project managers, the company threw many of their big guns at the production, in what was one of the most unusual challenges they have ever faced.
Technical Overview — Set
The set, designed by UNITE Tomorrowland, was constructed in Protec’s ever expanding in-house scenic and set department to the drawings and dimensions provided. This was mounted onto an Al Laith structure which enabled them to fly an LED screen, while at the same time commandeering the structure behind to mount the lighting.
Protec’s crew chief Abi Bates was part of a team comprising the company’s Lighting HoD Aaron Russ, Paul Coopes and Nestor Piquero. As an introduction to the project, she reports that all of the stage lighting had been designed by the lighting team for Tomorrowland in Belgium. “The lighting spec was different than anything Protec (and probably any other company in the region) has faced before. This was because the main feature of the lighting design was that during the section of the show that received satellite feeds from Belgium playing on the screen, the lighting operator in Belgium wanted to have remote control of the lighting desks (GrandMA2 Full Size) from the Unite shows around the world,” she explained.
The lighting fixtures around the rest of the venue (essentially the audience lighting) was designed by Protec to give the best coverage of the space, and to ensure that the lighting designs from both Belgium, and the additional lighting specific to the Dubai venue, worked in harmony to create an aesthetically cohesive overall lighting design for the show.
Video reinforcement consisted of three screens — one main upstage screen and two IMAG screens.
The IMAGs were used to show live feeds from all around the world during the live broadcast.
The satellite link-up from the main event in Belgium, and every country transmitting to and receiving from that location, was handled by SNG who provided four HDSDI feeds with embedded audio from Belgium. The audio was THEN extracted from the video signal using de-embedders and sent on XLR cable to the main screen, while the video signal was sent to Protec’s Connex HDSDI to Fibre converters and relayed to FOH via Neutrik opticalCON quad core fibre. The secondary signal, featuring content from around the world, was sent to the IMAG screens.
Further feeds were supplied by six cameras, courtesy of Prime Vision, five for centre screen and the other to record footage for the client.
In summary, he said, “We were very happy with the show. The screens looked great especially when displaying the VJ content. We went to a lot of trouble to colour match and set a uniform brightness across all screens as well as work with lighting to agree on a brightness that worked with the lights, and also Prime Vision to achieve a good colour balance for the camera feeds that would show the Dubai show to be displayed across all of the other Unite countries.”
For audio Protec turned to their state-of-the-art L-Acoustics K2 system, with 14 elements a side on the main stage and 10 aside for the delays. For low frequencies they deployed 24 SB28 subwoofers, with KARA infill. This was approved by Backbone, the technical team for Tomorrowland Belgium.
Summing up, Abi Bates said Protec’s lighting department had overcome all challenges — notably that the venue was only a semi-permanent structure, meaning that great care needed to be taken with regard to weight loading and distribution in the roof of the venue.
“The show went incredibly well from both a lighting, and an overall Protec perspective. I believe that both the production managers from Backbone as well as the promoters at Envie Events were incredibly happy with both the collaboration between production and the Protec team, as well as the end result and we were well supported, particularly by Markus from GrandMA with lighting desk synchronisation.”
Emran Khan, one of the production managers at Backbone International, was indeed happy. “This unique concept is a super idea, which was well executed and fits beautifully with Unite’s vision. I would especially like to thank Abi and Paul from our Dubai lighting crew for executing it so efficiently and Markus from GrandMA for lending a helping hand. It was a pleasure working with them.”
Aaron Russ, Protec Lighting Head of Dept agreed. “I think it was a great success. Personally for myself and Paul it was one of the best gigs we have ever been involved with. From a geek perspective, the idea of uniting all stages with a similar design and remote operation so it all looked the same was genius.”
And with the final word on the event, Protec project manager, Simon Travis paid tribute to the excellence of his crew for implementation and fulfilment, turning an ambitious and ground-breaking concept into reality. “The show itself was thumping, looked great and sounded great,” he said. “There were no issues and I could not be happier.”
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